Surprise! Your new lawyer gig mandates marketing

Carolyn Lavin
BridgeTower Media Newswires

You’ve earned the degree, passed the bar, and landed a gig.

But moving up in the lawyer world takes more - understanding of basic marketing principles.

Although a crucial piece of the puzzle for long-term business success, marketing can prove an unexpected challenge for lawyers starting or advancing their careers, especially as marketing and business development are not integral parts of most law curriculums.

Lawyers making their way may feel some stress about participating in a firm's marketing culture.

Whether lawyers begin at small firms, where they are hands-on with web development and branding, or start in bigger settings with marketing directors to drive business, it is critical they adopt marketing-friendly attitudes and determine how best to marry personal strengths with marketing and business development opportunities.

Marketing challenges, goals

In basic terms, the main reason to use a variety of marketing tactics is to ensure you can be found via Google search.

Marketing generates awareness of lawyers and their practice areas, builds reputations and reinforces expertise in certain industries and specialty areas, and can keep lawyers top-of-mind.

Dissenters often claim marketing is too expensive, that it’s overwhelming to know where to start, or it will take too much time in an already time-stressed day.

Others say they don’t want to be too pushy, or they don’t believe they need marketing at this stage of their careers.

For new lawyers (but also the more seasoned), there’s no universal approach. The best advice is to identify a few marketing endeavors that fit your goals and ease into them slowly to reap the rewards.

Lawyers must master these critical first steps and assess their impacts before moving forward. This maximizes the investment of your time away from billable hour requirements.

Branding, social media, speaking, blogging

Most law firms establish their branding elements and track and measure their accomplishments, then determine where to spend their time and money.

Often they identify what the attorneys in the firm are known for, what they are good at, what’s profitable and even what's “hot” in the marketplace at the moment. From there, firm marketers pinpoint their audiences - both primary and secondary - and define their key selling points.

Using social media is a smart first step and often provides the greatest return-on-investment of time. Beyond social media, beginning lawyers should capitalize on all networking activities afforded them by their firms, to plant the seeds of their networks. Business relationships often originate from involvement in volunteer efforts in the professional and civic community.

Lawyers who like to speak and write may fast-track their careers by writing short blog posts summarizing case wins or new laws, or by taking on particular facets of upcoming presentations and working closely with lead partners in charge.

Websites, LinkedIn profiles

Websites are frequently the epicenter of a law firm’s marketing effort. Service professionals need websites so potential clients and customers can vet them. In fact, the American Bar Association has some solid stats that reinforce the need for a website if you want to be considered a “real” lawyer and not a fraud.

While firms of a certain size have all the requisite vendors for creating snazzy websites with the latest functionality, new lawyers in small and solo practices may take on the challenge of seeing a new website - or the update of an existing website - to fruition.

I have seen experienced solo practitioners succeed with robust LinkedIn profiles instead of websites, especially if the lawyer previously worked for a well-known firm and has significant name recognition.

LinkedIn has great visibility and search engine friendliness. It’s built for ease of interaction and provides excellent engagement analytics and data. It’s free and simple to maintain with little technical knowledge.

New lawyers contributing their skills to creating or maintaining websites will appreciate how sites can more accurately demonstrate the breadth and scope of a practice as well as its culture, tone and flavor. A website showcases more than one attorney, offers expanded options to engage visitors via a blog or other calls-to-action, and even allows tracking of viewers using Google Analytics and other tools.

Contemporary business writing

Contemporary writing - free from grammar snafus and other common writing errors - is vital for lawyers in all communications. We are inundated with too many messages, memos, emails and other communication every day, so it’s crucial that new lawyers understand the need to cut through the clutter and present their compelling messages in easy-to-read formats.

Other writing tips: be brief and get to your point, right from the start; skip the legal jargon; and avoid complex phrasing and qualifiers. Use active voice and be conversational in tone. Astute lawyers and law firms focus on the benefits to clients, not their own features.

Individual marketing plans

For lawyers looking to enter the marketing arena, an individual marketing plan, or IMP, is a valuable option for solidifying intentions, with the blessing of your firm or boss.

A marketing professional works closely with a new lawyer to carve out reasonable initiatives that capitalize on strengths.

An IMP sets reasonable goals, usually within a firm’s big-picture framework, and may focus on equipping new lawyers with the skills to make the most of networking events and client interactions. It can even provide some soft skills for giving presentations or leveraging nonverbal communication skills.

Marketing activities may take new lawyers outside their comfort zones a bit, but the end result is usually a win-win for the lawyer and the law firm.


Carolyn Lavin is the president of Lavin Marketing Communications.